May 2008

Dear Friends,

Irena Sendler passed away this week. Sendler, who lived until the age of 98, was a unique and heroic person. Sendler rescued hundreds of children from the Warsaw Ghetto. Using her position as a social worker, she regularly entered the ghetto, smuggled the children and then placed them with Polish families and institutions. In 1943 Sendler, who led the children’ section of the Zegota organization which helped Jews during the war, was arrested and tortured by the Gestapo. She only escaped execution when Zegota managed to bribe some Gestapo officials, and she was released after withstanding severe interrogations, but she did not betray the names of her rescue confidants.

I met Irena in 1988, when I visited her in her small apartment in Warsaw.

I remember a small, humble woman with a smile that lights up the room. She never asked for anything for herself. When you saw Irena, you found it hard to imagine the extent of her heroic activity; an amazingly brave woman who under the watchful eyes of the Nazis smuggled children out of the ghetto, and later withstood the tortures of the Gestapo.

Irena’s story is proof of how a small act, which started when she went into the ghetto to visit her Jewish friends, evolved into a vast rescue operation.

Her passing is another reminder of the urgency of our work, especially that of finding and honoring rescuers, and to videotaping the stories of those who were saved.

Irena Sendler will always be remembered. Her legacy lives on.


Dr. Mordecai Paldiel

Gathering with Pope Benedict XVI

The interreligious gathering with Pope Benedict XVI entitled ”Peace Our Hope” was organized in Washington on April 17 as a part of the 2008 Papal Visit to the United States. Rabbis, Priests and religious leaders from all religions gathered at this event to send the message of peace and understanding. That was also a symbolic message of the main part of the program when five representatives of Judaism, Islam, Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism presented the Pope with gifts of peace. The IRWF was invited to the event as an organization dedicated to the dialogue between people of all faith.

Robert Olschwagner Exhibit in Berlin

The opening of the Robert Olschwanger caricatures exhibition took place on May 5, 2008, at the Ev. Vaterunser Gemeinde, protestant Church of Berlin. The event was organized jointly by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation and the Vaterunser Gemeinde Church, and curated by Pastor Annemarie Werner. Robert Olschwagner was a Jewish artist born in Germany. During the Holocaust he established himself in Peru, where he published a great number of remarkable caricatures against the Nazi regime in Peruvian press.

Honoring Mr. Khaled Abdul-Wahab in Washington

Mordecai Paldiel represented the IRWF at a ceremony honoring Khaled Abdul-Wahab for saving the lives of 24 Jews in Tunisia during the Holocaust. ”Abdul-Wahab’s case is unique, since he is an Arab rescuer, and no Arab rescuer has been honored yet.” said Paldiel. The ceremony took place at the Garden of the Righteous at Adas Israel Congregation. Ambassador of Tunisia, Mohamed Nejib Hachana spoke on the uniqueness of Tunisia and the great value of this recognition. ”This is proof that Arabs and Jews can not only live together, but help each other.”

Roncalli Street Naming at Peekskill, NY

A moving ceremony where a street was named after Angelo Roncalli (later Pope John XXIII) took place in Peekskill, NY on May 6th, 2008. Angelo Roncalli saved Jews during the Holocaust by issuing baptismal papers and by personal protests. Later, as Pope John XXIII, Roncalli convened the Second Vatican Council, which finally acquitted Jews of Christ-Killing. Rabbi Claudio Kupchik of the First Hebrew Congregation of Peekskill started the initiative of the street naming, while also having in mind a symbolic value of the street – it runs from the First Hebrew building to the Holy Spirit Parish.

Letter to the Editor: Scholars Search for Clues to a Holocaust Mystery

Your article raises intriguing questions that remain unanswered even today, 63 years after the abduction and disappearance of the greatest of saviors — Raoul Wallenberg [Foreign, ”Scholars Search for Clues to a Holocaust Mystery,” April 28, 2008]. This search proves the stature of this great man, whose fate stirs a great deal of interest among scholars and governments alike. Read the letter at /?en/press/scholars-search-clues.4780.htm

Eternal Gratitude

Irena Sendler, one of the greatest rescuers of victims of the Holocaust, passed away on May 12th. She epitomized the great courage of the thousands of women and men who risked their lives to save the persecuted. /?en/news/eternal-gratitude.4820.htm